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ALBERT S. COOK, EDITOR
THE COMPLAINT OF NATURE
ALAIN DE LILLE
TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN
DOUGLAS M. MOFFAT
The connection of the De Planctu Naturce with Chaucer's Parlement of Foules and with the Romon de la Rose, the increasing frequency of references to it in works of scholarship, and its inaccessibility save in its peculiar Latin, have furnished the reasons for this translation. The importance of Alain's work lies wholly in what it prompted; by itself it would have long since been justly forgotten. The theologian whose great stores of recondite learning made him the
Doctor Universalis' of his day, the Alain who was very sage,' the 'Doctor SS. Theologiæ Famosus,' is now known chiefly because of two lines in the blithe and famous poet of early England. He is distinctly of that number to whom the interests of scholarship alone give any present life. Still, in the eye of scholarship his importance is not inconsiderable. Not only the great interest attending everything which has to do with Chaucer, with the sources from which he drew, and with the very hints which he throws out so lightly, but also the extensive influence which the De Planctu Naturæ exerted on Jean de Meun's part of the Roman de la Rose, give him a position which all investigators in these fields of literature must recognize. The statement of Langlois that 'more than five thousand verses of the Roman de la Rose are translated, imitated, or inspired by the De Planctu Naturæ' is excellent authority that this mysterious scholar of the Middle Ages, whose very identity is unascertained, was of those who beget kings in literature, though he himself were none.
It is difficult to render the Latin of Alain into a translation which shall be at once accurate and yet not too much at variance with the fundamental standards of good English literature. Truly, as was said by Robert Holkoth long ago, the De Planctu Naturce is ‘metro et prosa compositum scientifice multum et curiose.' Those repetitions, those fantastic circumlocutions, those wonderful wild flowers of metaphor which grow up constantly around him, leave on the translator's hands a multitude of words, fluttering over an embarrassing paucity of ideas, for which English synonyms and approved figures of English speech are manifestly few or lacking. The present translator hopes that he is not chargeable too heavily with the weaknesses of a compromise. It has not been thought advisable to render into anything but prose those portions of the original which are in verse.
I have been unable to find any thoroughly good text of the De Planctu Nature. The one which I have used as a basis is that of Thomas Wright, found in Satirical Poets of the Twelfth Century, Vol. 2 (Rolls Series, London, 1872); but several of the variants which he notes, and several from the text of Migne in the Patrologia Latina, Vol. 210 (Paris, 1855), which Wright does not note, have been adopted, and a few emendations have been made. To all such changes attention is called in the foot-notes.
I owe many thanks to Professor Charles U. Clark, of Yale University, and to Dr. Richard M. Gummere, of Haverford College, for their careful revision of large portions of the translation. To Professor Albert S. Cook, of Yale University, at whose suggestion the work was undertaken, I have been greatly indebted for help and guidance at every stage.
D. M. M.
May 2, 1908.
THE BOOK OF ALAIN ON THE COMPLAINT
METRE I. In lacrimas risus, in luctus gaudia verto. Amente I change laughter to tears, joy to sorrow, applause to lament, mirth to grief, when I behold the decrees of Nature 1 in abeyance; when society is ruined and destroyed by the monster of sensual love; when Venus, fighting against Venus, makes men women; when with s her magic art she unmans men. It is not pretense that travails with sorrow, O adulterer! nor the tears of pretense, nor dissimulation; rather is it grief, and birth itself is given to sorrow. The Muse requests, this very grief commands, Nature implores that, as 10 I weep, I give them a mournful song. Alas! whither 2 has the loveliness of Nature, the beauty of character, the standard of chastity, the love of virtue departed ? 3 Nature weeps, character passes away, chastity is wholly banished from its former high station, and become an 15 orphan. The sex of active nature trembles shamefully at the way in which it declines into passive nature. Man is made woman, he blackens the honor of his sex, the craft of magic Venus makes him of double gender. He is both predicate and subject, he 20 becomes likewise of two declensions, he pushes the laws of grammar too far. He, though made by Nature's skill, barbarously denies that he is a man. Art does not please him, but rather artifice; even that artificiality cannot be called metaphor; rather it sinks 25 1 Reading Naturam, with Migne. Reading quo, with Migne.
• Reading secessit, with Migne.